Back in Korea when I was a young child, my dad owned and operated a small pharmacy. He opened it around 7 in the morning and closed it around 7 at night, Monday through Saturday. Other than on Sundays, the Pharmacy seldom closed except for one or two days out of the year for national holidays. On one side of the counter, among various nick-knacks, there was a small rectangular aquarium that contained gravel and shallow water and was home to 4 small turtles. When I would stop by after school, somehow they had stacked themselves on top of each other, 4 turtles high, as if trying to escape the aquarium. They never did, of course. This image came to mind as I thought about my dad and Father's Day.
My dad is an introvert--like I am; he doesn't have many friends, and he doesn't involve himself in the community--unlike my mom. Everyone knows him as my mom's husband. Dad spent all day in that small pharmacy--talking with customers, filling prescriptions, stocking inventories, sweeping and cleaning windows, and simply sitting and waiting for customers; and this repeated day after day. What is extraordinary, though, is that my dad went on doing ordinary things--things that did not get him noticed--day after day. I did not understand it as a child, but as an adult I understand the need to be faithful to ordinary things--the mundane, daily responsibilities that we sometimes find wearisome and may want to make us escape day-after-day from our world, like those four turtles.
Perhaps we may say to ourselves that we are insignificant, lacking talent and barely noticed by others. However, the great mystery is that Heavenly Father used many small, unknown instruments to build the Kingdom. Who in Jerusalem knew of Mary or Joseph? They were simple folks of no influence from a tiny village of Nazareth. How about their son? People in his own town knew him only as Joseph’s son, a carpenter’s son. Prophet Isaiah said about Jesus, “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”
In the Gospel, Jesus uses the image of a tiny mustard seed, a seed that is so small that it is barely noticeable, to teach that even something that small can grow into the largest of plants. For the most part, we do not realize that the Kingdom continues to be built through little instruments who steadily serve our Lord, but each day God somehow takes our ordinary tasks done faithfully with love and applies it in building His Kingdom.
What are some of the things that we do for others that are barely noticeable to others? A smile, a handshake, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a card, an embrace, a kind greeting, a gesture of support, a moment of attention, a helping hand, a present, or a visit. How many of these little things have we done this week? We will not know until the day when we meet St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, how these little unnoticeable things helped build the Kingdom of God.